Lucio Levi, peace and federalism

Article published on Oct. 29, 2005
community published
Article published on Oct. 29, 2005

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Europeans need to learn to unite as they can no longer entrust their future to just national politicians. Moreover, as Lucio Levi from the World Federalist Movement puts it, the EU can bring a revolutionary message to the world.

A fragile figure with a bag full of heavy books, Lucio Levi is expected at the Forlì Peace Centre for the presentation of his latest work, Crisi dello stato e governo del mondo (State and government crises in the world). I wait for him at the station with Lamberto Zanetti, a historian and relentless proponent of the European cause, and organiser of the conference together with the Peace centre. Levi knows that I am accompanying Zanetti, but I am surprised when he greets me saying, “I know café babel and I read your articles when I can, but I didn’t know you branched out so much to Italy”. We will get to know each other better during the day.

Peace, a personal choice

Professor Levi’s various jobs take him around the world. He teaches political science and comparative politics at Turin University and is Editor of The Federalist Debate magazine. He is also a member of the executive committee of the World Federalist Movement in New York and recently attended a meeting of the Union of European Federalists in Brussels. Before today ends, he will be in Pescara (on the eastern coast of Italy) for a weekend of work on the future of the European Union after France and the Netherlands’ resounding No to the European constitution earlier this year. For the time being, he is here with us and, before the conference, we sit down in the peaceful botanical garden in front of the Peace Centre. We take the time to stroke two cats that keep us company for the whole interview, and begin.

Levi chose peace as a guiding value before becoming a scholar and an activist. “I am not that young any more”, he says, smiling. “I have lived through the Second World War, and I’m Jewish. Nine members of my family were deported and died in the concentration camps. The aspiration to peace and the refusal of violence have been with me since I was young”. When he was only fifteen, he encountered the European Federalist Movement, which solidified his ideals of peace and unity in Europe. But the Old Continent was not enough. Thus, he looked elsewhere. “The European Union and the European Parliament are the example to follow, proof that democracy can go beyond individual countries and that rights are better than force in the resolution of conflicts”, he says. Thus, working for the World Federalist Movement came naturally enough as it promotes democracy and the support of the difficult democratic experiences in countries where human rights are only now being recognised.

The UN, the EU and the constitution

Levi laments that many of the objectives of the UN Millennium Declaration, have not been fulfilled. “Not much has been done towards disarmament or the struggle against nuclear proliferation. Even actions against poverty have not been sufficient”, says Levi. Disillusioned but not disheartened, he believes that the reform of the UN Security Council is another question that needs addressing. “The prospect of creating a single seat for Europe in the UN is a difficult step, but it is not completely unthinkable if Europe can renew the constitutional treaty that defines the legal personality of the Union”. Levi insists on beginning the constitutional process anew, so that the EU and its values can become an example for the rest of the world. “The African Union is inspired by the European experience and has asked for a single seat for a unified Africa on the UN Security Council”.

Even with regard to the spread of democracy, the European Union has a lot to answer for. “Enlargement has always been the main foreign policy of the Union. Its relationship with neighbouring countries is based on the Copenhagen criteria, which came into being in 1993. They stipulate that democracy, human rights, respect for ethnic minorities and free market are non-negotiable values. The democratic transition of Spain, Portugal, Greece, Eastern European countries and the reforms in Turkey are an example of the positive influence of the EU”. He is convinced of the revolutionary message that the EU can bring to the world. “Today, we need to globalise democracy. The European Union knows how to do that peacefully”.

Relaunch the European Constitution

“The EU is living one of the greatest crises of its history. But nationalism is a dead end”. Rethinking the EU and its values is fundamental for the Old Continent and for the rest of the world. “Falling back into barbaric methods of governing is always possible”, he says, visibly upset, “as shown by the incidents in ex-Yugoslavia, the misery in Africa, the return of mass graves and more out of control violence. Peace and how to get it is the message that the European Union must carry to its new members and the rest of the world”. The professor’s greatest preoccupation is that the people have fallen out of love with the EU. “It is from here that we need to go forward and find the space to start over the constitutional process. In December, the European Citizens’ Convention will be held in Genoa. It is a unique event which has never happened before”. Involving as many associations, trade unions and local authorities as possible, as well as involving the people, is the next challenge that Europe faces.

Our time is up. We thank the cats before the professor makes his way to the conference. The message is clear: to build a new Europe, the foundation must be a united people. The constitution is for them. If the chance passes, Europe will return once more to a game between diplomats and politicians, safe in the secrecy of their intergovernmental conferences.